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The Internet is an Influence Multiplier

After reading David Armano’s post Brands + Amplification = Influence, I was reminded of the military concept “force multiplier”.  A force multiplier is a combination of technology, intense training, organization, or a combination of all to make a given force more effective than another force of comparable size.

David is responding to a post by Alan Weiss that says it isn’t really possible to create a brand on the Internet, you can only spread it more effectively.  Perhaps Alan and I define brand differently, but I think he is wrong on that, and I have the impression Armano thinks he is wrong too.  

Weiss claims people only read your blog because they heard about you in some other context, and want to hear more from you.  I know for a fact that is hogwash–I get a lot more people wanting to interact with me outside the blog because they first discovered me in this blog than the other way around.

Armano makes some interesting points in his post though.  The most important of which is that the Internet is a sort of non-linear amplifier of the value your content is delivering.  He says:

But what may be the most critical piece for us to understand and harness is how amplification actually works.  The mechanics of it are intricate to say the least.  If you have nothing remarkable to offer, there tends to be no amplification.  If what you have to offer is remarkably good—the network kicks into overdrive resulting in the influence of behavior and ultimately some type of relationship.  If what you have to offer is remarkably bad—the network also kicks into high gear and amplifies the negativity—influencing behavior and often times causing perception and possibly relationships to go south.

I interpret this graphically as wildly undamped growth curves as you stray towards either slightly positive or negative.  The more positive or negative your initial content, the more it kicks:

The more your content deviates from the mean “quality”, whether good or bad, the more intense is the amplification effect of the Internet. This goes a long way to explain why when you look at a bunch of blog posts you’ve done, they don’t fall into a nice uniform scattering of popularity. A few are hugely popular, and most are pretty average.

What does it mean for marketers? Armano gives this anecdote about Dell:

Michael Dell understood this when he prioritized the effort for his company to participate in the positive amplification of his own brand via the internet including multiple social networks. This ultimately lead to more than a 20% improvement of opinions found on the Web accessible through Google etc. Other major companies have watched closely and are now in the process of figuring out how their own brands need to come to terms with this new reality.

For startups, my takeaway is that your first priority has to be to find something worth saying.  Or, to put it in these terms, something worth amplifying.

I had a great lunch recently with LucidEra’s Ken Rudin, whom I’ve interviewed in the past.  That lunch will be the subject of some posting next week, but for now, I can easily see that Rudin has followed a strategy of creating something worth amplifying and then empowering his customers to talk about it. 

Jim Kukral, in a comment to Armano’s post, puts it perfectly:

Amplification is another word for creating customer evangelists. The people who really, really amplify your product/services.

Another way to look at it is that your first task may be to get on the map by non-Internet means and then to follow that up with a campaign to amplify the positive message you can talk about after you’ve gotten yourself on the map.  Getting on the map is a function of creating enough critical mass of customers who are excited about your product.

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